We got a chance to catch up with Hardwell during EDC weekend in Las Vegas before his grand set at the main stage. Here we discussed his early DJ career, the artists that influenced his sound, his plans for the future, and his extensive sneaker collection. Hardwell, real name Robbert van de Corput – after being named the number 1 DJ by DJ Magazine in 2013 and 2014, and headlining numerous tours and working with some of the biggest artists today – remains grounded and very down to earth during our conversation. Check out our interview with Hardwell, undoubtedly a pioneer of EDM music, below.
Let's start by talking about your early DJ career. I understand that you started off as an old school hip-hop DJ, how did your fascination with hip-hop start?
Well when I started falling in love with DJing... well I fell in love with EDM music but then again, I wanted to learn to become a DJ in a technical standpoint. Beat-matching is the first thing, but if you look at the hip-hop DJ with the turntableism and scratching, that's what I actually fell in love with. I wanted to learn everything, you know? If you see those hip-hop DJs scratching everything, I was like "whoa, I wanna do that as well" so that's why I started off as a hip-hop DJ in the early state of my career and actually later on, started to produce my own EDM songs. So actually from that point, I switched back to EDM from then to today.
What are some of your favorite earlier albums, whether it be hip-hop or otherwise?
Big fan of Public Enemy, I really love the early Eminem stuff, but also more of the crossover stuff. Like when Limp Bizkit released their earlier works, and just all different kinds of music. I've always been a music lover so I've always been very open-minded in terms of genres.
Any plans for a possible hip-hop project in the future?
I'm actually doing an unannounced hip-hop set here at the Art Car, but there's a possibility I may produce some hip-hop beats for other artists, but not something that will relate to Hardwell, as that is for sticking with EDM music. It's funny, the story with doing the hip-hop set here is that one of the owners at EDC was at Ibiza last summer and when I finished my main set, I played a hip-hop set at one of the trailer areas and he was like "yo, you can play hip-hop, that's amazing! You gotta do this at EDC next year!" So we're here now, playing a hip-hop set before my main set!
Would you consider yourself as fashion-savvy? Any favorite brands?
I wear a lot of Eleven Paris, a brand I really love lately which is amazing, especially their jackets. I'm a big fan of Nikes as well. You also need to check out this brand called Knapp, really cool brand.
Are there any favorite stores you like to visit when traveling the world during your tours?
Since I've been traveling so much in the last five years, I became friends with a lot of the local people and when we have time to shop, I always tell them "take me to the cool places and cool stores." Especially in New York and Toronto, they have amazing stores.
Not many people know that you're a sneakerhead. How extensive is your collection? What are some of your favorites?
I think I have 80 pairs of sneakers, but then again when I buy my 81st pair I always take one pair of sneakers out and give it to one of my friends. I keep it at 80! My favorites as I mentioned before, definitely Nike. A close second is Filling Pieces, amazing brand. I also love the Yeezys. Right now I have the Huaraches on. I just love when they come out with creative, new colorways of some of the classics such as the Air Max 1s and Air Force 1s.
How do you feel overall headlining and coming back to EDC? What's the EDC experience like for you?
Well EDC, it's just one of the most amazing festivals in the world. Seriously, there's just something about this festival – the atmosphere, all the different stages, the people are super open-minded here. And I always say, and people forget, that it's not the biggest festival in the world, but it is the biggest main stage in the world. There's no stage in the world where you can play EDM with so many people in front of you (about 60,000 people). So it's amazing, being on the main stage and you see people all the way to the horizon.
Being named the number 1 DJ by DJ Magazine in 2013 and 2014, how has this affected you overall?
Personally, my role models are Armin van Buuren and Tiesto, and they were both number 1 in the world earlier on. I said when I was a little kid "mom and dad, I want to become the number 1 DJ in the world," so it was a very personal thing for me. It was a dream and I achieved that, so no matter what people think about DJ Magazine or about the numbers, to me personally that was my dream and that's what I achieved. And of course, I'm dealing with more pressure now but on the other hand, I'm still standing here, and playing all of these great festivals in the world. I should just enjoy it more instead of just thinking about the pressure!
Any artists you would like to work with in the future?
Well if you have half an hour I can name you a bunch (laughs) but if I had to choose one, definitely Pharrell Williams. I just admire him as a person – who he is, the way he produces, the way he sings, songwrites, he does everything himself and that's just a huge inspiration for me.
Personally, what's been your favorite DJ gig so far?
I think closing my first world tour, 'I Am Hardwell' at Madison Square Garden in New York. It's the most iconic and legendary venue in the world and we had the world tour doing 40 shows worldwide, and closing and being the very last show of the tour I knew when I was walking on stage that this is the last time I'm going to be playing in this setup, so it was really emotional as well. New York is just an amazing crowd, so just all those things combined make it my favorite gig ever.
What's next for Hardwell? What should fans be expect from you in the near future?
A lot of new music. I'm going to be releasing original songs every month. I'm not working on my second album yet, but at this point I don't want to deal with any deadlines and pressure – I just want to make music whenever I feel like making music. I'm working on really hard festival bangers, more pop stuff, more vocal stuff – I like to do everything, you know? We'll see where it goes. I just finished getting my new studio in my house, so I'm having a great time with that and making new music!
Any final words?
All the fans at HYPEBEAST and HYPETRAK, thank you guys so much for the support and this opportunity!